Ed Maloney's Mission
The man behind, beside, and all over, the Planes of Fame Air Museum.
- By Marshall Lumsden
- Air & Space magazine, March 2008
(Page 3 of 6)
We move on to a Korean-era fighter. "And this Yak-18 is called ‘Bed Check Charlie.' They'd throw out hand grenades or whatever bottles they had to make noise to keep our troops awake at night. The only Navy ace in the Korean War shot down five of these flying a Corsair F4U-5NL. There's still a few flying in Europe, but they're kind of rare."
We stop at a little biplane, a Hanriot Scout.
"Here's the first World War I aircraft we acquired," he says. "It belonged to the third-ranking French ace, Charles Nungesser. When the war was over, he brought this and several other airplanes over to do a little barnstorming. In 1925, he did a motion picture at Roosevelt Field called The Sky Raider. The pilot of the photography airplane, I found out years later, was Igor Sikorsky."
On completion of the movie, Maloney tells me, the producers of The Sky Raider hired Nungesser to perform aerial stunts to promote the film across the country. At the end of the tour, he stored the airplane at the Santa Monica airport, which was then Clover Field, and returned to France to prepare for an attempt to fly across the Atlantic. He disappeared during the flight.
"When I was just a kid in grade school, I remember seeing the Hanriot Scout," says Maloney. "They'd do movies like Men With Wings, Tailspin Tommy, and Hell's Angels, and the theater would rent this plane and put it in the foyer. I got to thinking back in the early '50s and I said, Gee, I remember that airplane. That's got to be around here someplace. It had a skull and crossbones on the side."
Then Maloney did what has led him to many an airplane since: He started "asking around." He found that the owner had died and that the airplane now belonged to his wife, who had stored it in a warehouse, and was willing to sell. "So I bought it from her and assembled and restored it," he says.
Keep 'em Flyin'
In a fenced lot outside one hangar sits a B-17 without its war paint. The last active Flying Fortress in the U.S. Air Force,
Piccadilly Lilly II retired in 1959. "This is the B-17 that was used in the television series ‘Twelve O'Clock High' years ago," Maloney says. "We'd like to put it back in the air, but we've only raised enough money to paint it."